ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams have their pass rush revved up after a slow start, with 16 sacks in the last four games. It figures to be tough getting to Peyton Manning this week, given the Denver Broncos have surrendered nine sacks all season.
Manning has not been sacked more than twice in a single game for the Broncos, who will cap a stretch of three straight road games against the Rams (3-6). Denver (7-2) leads the AFC West and the Rams are last in the NFC West.
"We have a huge challenge," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "Quite frankly, if he came out and said, 'Hey, this is what we're running and try to stop it,' he's still Peyton Manning and he's going to find somebody getting open."
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher has faced Manning many times when he coached the Tennessee Titans and Manning was with Indianapolis. He knows firsthand how difficult it is to prepare for a Manning-led offense.
"There's no doubt. Peyton's playing his best football right now," Fisher said. "It's amazing the things he's doing with the football. The cast that they have surrounded him with is outstanding. It really tests your defense. It requires patience. You have to run the football and get their punter on the field. Then you have a chance."
Manning leads the NFL with 29 touchdown passes and is coming off his ninth career five-TD game. He has thrown at least two touchdown passes in an NFL-record 15 consecutive games and he has thrown for at least one score in 48 consecutive contests. Manning is on pace to become the first player in NFL history to throw for 50 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.
Manning also ranks third in the league in passing yards with 2,912.
Safety Mark Barron made his Rams debut last week against Arizona. He noted Manning prepares for every possibility.
"I would say he's smarter than most quarterbacks," Barron said. "You most definitely have to be disciplined when you play him. The last time I played him we came away from the game thinking maybe he had cheated or something. Seriously."
The Rams defense is ready for the challenge, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said.
"There is really little room for error," Williams said. "You really don't change a lot of things you're doing. When people start doing that type of stuff is when big accidents happen. We've just got to be who we are."
The pass rush by the Rams will be key. Defensive end Robert Quinn has recorded two sacks and forced two fumbles in his last four games. For the season, Quinn has six sacks after he was second in the NFL last season with 19.
The Broncos have made some changes to the offensive line. Louis Vasquez starts at right tackle along with Manny Ramirez at guard and Will Montgomery at center. Williams said the pressure cannot just come from the defensive line.
"It's pressure all around," the coordinator said. "We've got to be a really good tackling team. They're going to test that by how they get the ball in space and then can they isolate it on one or two guys."
It's tough to rattle a veteran like Manning.
"He's been playing for so long; he manages stress so well," Williams said. "There will be a chess match that goes on. One of the things I joke with the players about but it's serious — all good players have to rise above their coaching at some point in time. It comes down to making a play when you're called upon to make it."
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